History can be a real bitch when you think about it. I hear all the time about how good Bill Russell was for the Boston Celtics and I hear that Jim Brown was the greatest player to ever play football. The problem is that I never got the chance to see them play so for me to really give a true opinion of their greatness.
As the NCAA Tournament gets underway this Thursday (please don’t argue that it begins with the play-in games because I don’t recognize those money grabs), the University of Kentucky is poised to make history of their own.
At 34-0 and fresh from a Southeastern Conference Title, the Wildcats are poised to become the first team since Indiana in 1976 to finish the season unbeaten.
But the question that has been asked a lot in the last 48 hours is what if they don’t win the championship? Are they still recognized as a great team? Are they even in the conversation with other teams that had great regular seasons but couldn’t finish the deal?
In other words, how will history judge these Wildcats?
Should John Calipari’s team win each game and then lose the final on a half-court shot does it matter? Is it going to be any different than if they lost by 20 in the final? The hard truth is that if that zero changes to a ‘one’ in the loss column then just about everything this team has accomplished becomes a mere footnote in history.
It won’t matter how they lost because all that would matter is that they did in fact lose.
It’s not fair and you know it but this is how we judge our players and teams today. We cannot grant special status to any team or player that doesn’t win a championship.
Dan Marino is often thought of as the best quarterback of all-time but because he had only one Super Bowl appearance and no wins, there is an asterisk next to his name whether he likes it or not. Even Peyton Manning can relate… He has a Super Bowl victory but has it been overshadowed by his playoff failures?
Like him or not, John Calipari has been a master when it comes to motivating this team. Rather than put his team’s focus entirely on the prize at the end of the road, he’s used numerous, shorter term goals to motivate. The danger now is centered on exactly what he said Sunday following his team’s win. “Everyone is 0-0 now and all that it takes is just one loss and it’s all over.”
Many have wondered if the Wildcats should have lost a game so that the pressure wouldn’t be as great on them in the tournament. I’ve never understood that argument. I can’t see how the pressure is any different whether UK had lost a game or not. They still would have entered the tournament as a one seed and likely its’ top seed overall as it now has.
If you’re wondering who could pull one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament then I would tell you to look for offense. There are plenty of teams that defend well but I think in order to beat this team you have to score. That means tournament teams like Duke, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Gonzaga could pose problems because they can score better than most teams in college basketball.
Kentucky of 2014-2015 will go down as a great team regardless of what happens but history tells us that only a title will bring eternal glory. That will only come with each game they win until they win the final one.